Center for Global Health

1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

Phone: (505) 272-8207
Fax: (505) 272-8441

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Tools for the Control of Global Infectious Diseases


Welcome to the Paratransgenesis Laboratory of The Centers for Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Global Health, Albuquerque, USA. This laboratory, under the direction of Dr. Ravi Durvasula, has played a leading role in development of paratransgenic applications.

Paratransgenesis is a “Trojan Horse” approach to control of disease transmission. It employs the interactions between host animals or insects, commensal bacteria found within the hosts and pathogens that reside in proximity to the commensal bacteria. In this approach, bacteria are isolated and genetically transformed in vitro to export molecules that interfere with the life cycle of the pathogen. The genetically altered bacteria are then introduced into the host where expression of engineered molecules disrupts the infectious agent. This approach attempts to decrease pathogen burden without adverse effects on hosts themselves. Furthermore, it employs, as a gene delivery mechanism, bacterial flora native to the host animal or insect.

Paratransgenic approaches are being developed for a spectrum of arthropod-borne diseases. The model system for paratransgenic control involves the vectorial transmission of Chagas disease, or American Trypanosomiasis, a disease with widespread prevalence in Central and South America. A new paratransgenic method is under development for control of sand fly-mediated leishmaniasis, with a focus on kala azar-endemic regions in Bihar, India. Modified paratransgenic systems are being explored for applications toward pathogens that cripple global mariculture.

In collaboration with University of California at Riverside, paratransgenic tools are under development to tackle Pierce’s disease, a devastating agricultural disease that is transmitted by the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter. Evolving strategies to target pathogen development in humans via commensal microflora are in progress.

Finally, second generation paratransgenic systems are under development that will employ advanced nano-materials to achieve better targeting of recombinant molecules with minimal environmental impact of transgene release.

Ravi Durvasula

Ravi Durvasula, MD
Principal investigator

The Paratransgenesis Laboratory (Durvasula Lab) has played a pioneering role in the development of novel approaches to the control of infectious disease transmission. Learn about our projects:

• Paratransgenic control of Chagas disease transmission.
• Paratransgenic approaches to sand fly vectors of Leishmania parasites.
• Paratransgenic strategies to address infectious pathogens of mariculture.
• Use of human commensal bacteria for disease control.
• Paratransgenic approaches to sharpshooter vectors of Pierce’s disease
• Development of algal biotechnology for sustainable energy
• Second generation paratransgenics for risk mitigation

View research projects